People are always asking us how to become a gypsy traveller and how to afford a perpetual trip. Actually there are a lot of vagabonds even travelling without money, so we are not doing anything special: you just need to have a strong will to do it. But in case your will is still not strong enough, we thought about giving you some more valuable money saving tips to be able to plan your next cheap trips. There is actually no real secret, you just have to know how to budget your money and learn to be frugal: but we'll give you some examples. Backpackers are often asking us also how to plan a trip to the Northern countries to see Northern Lights, since it's believed to be one of the most expensive trips.
In this article we will combine the two, and give you the answer that you wanted to hear: it is possible to travel on the cheap even in the most expensive countries of the world.
We usually consider 200€ per month as a maximum budget in Europe, where we have no visa and travel insurance to pay, independently of the country we are traveling in, but we are always below that maximum.
General money saving tips for Gypsy travellers
We already wrote several detailed articles to teach you how to become a gypsy traveller and reduce your expenses on food, transportation and accommodation.
But if you are in a hurry now, we can give you a brief summary of the most valuable money saving tips for backpackers:
- - Remove all the fixed expenses you have back home (car, rent, insurance, etc.)
- - Maximaze your revenues from what you leave at home and you won't need while travelling: sell surplus objects in internet and if you are so lucky to own an apartement just rent it out
- - Sleep for free with an hospitality exchange website, volunteering, house sitting or wild camping
- - Don't pay for your transportation: you should learn to travel either hitchhiking, cycling or walking. Other cheap transportation options are limited only by creativity.
- - Avoid restaurants
- - Buy food at the supermarket and cook it by yourself, or dumpster dive in Western countries
- - Limit your extra expenses like alcohol, clubs and nightlife
- - Travel slowly
Case study: Our budget to see Northern Lights in Norway, 130€ for 1 month
In fact when a backpacker is asking us how much we spend for our cheap trips, we always use as an example our experience to see Northern Lights in Norway. It is the most expensive country in the world, and prices are rising while you go up north: but this shouldn't stop you from planning your next travel, it is possible to travel on the cheap also in there! This is clearly only an example, that can be extended to any trip, beach, mountains, cities, etc. it's just a process involving how to budget your money.
Below our detailed expenses, expressed in Euros per person per month, during our one month stay over the Arctic Circle to see Northern Lights.
Our total expenses for accommodation were 0€. Yes, it's not a mistake, we never paid for sleeping at night.
- - 3 nights we were given accommodation while volunteering (wwoof)
- - 3 nights hosted by a couple that picked us up hitchhiking and invited us at their place
- - 1 night we were blocked while hitchhiking and we slept in a toilet
- - The rest of the night we were always hosted with couchsurfing.
For transportation we always hitchhiked, that means zero costs. Actually a couple of time we had to pay for a passenger fee to cross a fjord by ferry.
So our total cost for transportation was 11€.
For nightlife and attractions we didn't pay anything. First of all we passed most of our days in remote villages, to stay away from light pollution and maximize our chances to see Northern Lights. At night we were really focused on spotting Aurora Borealis, and at daytime resting or exploring the surroundings. We are not drinkers, and anyway alcohol in extremely expensive in Norway, a beer costing about 10€. Plus it was my third time visiting north of Norway, so I had been in previous trips to see interesting museums of the area, and I had no need to go back again. But in case it's your first trip to the north, you might consider 30€ extra for that.
So our total expenses for entertainment were: 0€
Food was our biggest, and almost only, expense. We bought most of our food from supermarkets, since in North of Norway there are almost no vegetables growing (we are vegetarian) and everything is imported. We did try a couple of times to dumpster dive in front of small supermarkets in the villages, but since the clients flow was quite limited, we were finding products expired even 5 years earlier! So dumpster diving in North of Norway wasn't really an option, unless you are in Tormso, Bodo or Narvik, the biggest cities up there.
So our total cost for food was: 119€
In summary, 1 month total cost travelling over the Arctic Circle in Norway:
- Accommodation: 0€
- Transportation: 11€
- Entertainment: 0€
- Food: 119€
- Total: 130€
A last money saving tip: analyze your budget
As you can see more than 90% of our expenses were due to eating. By analyzing your budget and the cost summary, it's possible to improve the "performances" in the next trip, trying to keep the budget even lower than before.
A tip to keep the food costs low is to buy local products: in the case of north of Norway, that would mean stock-fish and fish in general, plus reindeer meat. Since we are vegetarian, this wasn't an option for us, so we had to rely on supermarkets to buy imported vegetables. So expensive that they were sold by piece instead that by weight! But despite this we still managed to keep our expenses low, and I think we couldn't lower too much our final cost in this case. If you inspect carefully, in every country you'll find ingredients to prepare affordable meals: in example in Norway muesli were costing only 1€ per kilo, 3 times as cheap as in Romania or in Italy. Bread, potatoes and bananas are reasonably priced mostly everywhere in the world. If for a few ingredients you are paying an overpriced cost, that's not going to influence too much the final result.
Don't try to just copy our style, remeber that it doesn't exist only one way or "the cheapest way to travel", you just have to find your style, taking inspiration from other gypsy travellers and adapting it to your own needs.
Now that you know that travelling can be as cheap as you wish, and you learned through our money saving tips that it is a matter of knowing how to budget your money, it's time to plan your next experience as a gypsy traveller: maybe to see Northern Lights in Norway!